Guwahati, Sept. 11: The tea industry will review the tea plucking incentive that was agreed upon last year but could not be fully implemented because of crop failure.
The agreement, signed last year for the Brahmaputra valley, stated that garden labourers in Assam would have to pluck 23kg compared to the previous 21kg. Anybody who plucked more than 24kg will be given an incentive of 55 paise per kg.
Production in the Brahmaputra valley in 2010 was 428.74 million kg as compared to 445.13 million kg in 2009, resulting in a deficit of 16.39 million kg. The shortage was because of crop failure resulting from pest attacks.
The best year for the Brahmaputra valley was 2007 when production was 467.75 million kg.
“The plucking incentive was implemented for a limited period of time and in a few locations only and hence was not implemented fully,” a tea industry official said, adding that it was not implemented in the Golaghat area, considered to be the best area for tea in the state.
The decision to review the plucking incentive was taken on August 26 at a meeting in Dibrugarh. The plucking incentive is only for the ticca period ( June to October).
The agreement signed last year had stated that there would be a review after one year.
“The pros and cons of the incentive will be discussed. However, it is difficult to say whether the plucking incentive will be reviewed after a year or not,” the official said.
A committee was formed to assess the impact of the plucking incentive and a sample survey was done. The survey found an increase in productivity as well as in earnings of pluckers.
In fact, the tea industry has been harping on increased productivity and positive about providing incentives to those who worked more and disincentives for those who did not pluck according to the assigned tasks.
Absenteeism has been a major problem plaguing the industry and is in the range of 15-20 per cent. It needs to be addressed with mechanisation as well as strong disciplinary measures.
The official said counselling of workers and continuous efforts to curb the absenteeism trend had not met with much success.
Lengthy negotiations had to be done with the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha on improving productivity following which a plucking incentive was agreed upon.
Productivity in Assam tea gardens varies between 1,800kg and 2,600kg per hectare, which is quite low when compared globally. Plucking standards vary across the Assam valley because of various reasons.
The incentive earlier was 27 paise per kg if labourers plucked more than 21kg.
In fact, for the first time, a new category of garden output was added to the incentive slab. If a worker plucked 24kg to the average output of the garden, he or she would be given an incentive of 55 paise per kg.
The average output of the garden will be calculated on the basis of the past three years (2007-09). An incentive of Rs 1 per kg will be awarded if a worker plucked more than the average output of the garden.